How to deal with addiction

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How to deal with addiction

Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you, cause relationship difficulties or causes you feelings of guilt, shame or despair.

Common things to be addicted to include:

  • Nicotine: This includes cigarettes, as well as e-cigarettes and vapes.

  • Alcohol: One in four of the UK adult population drinks in a way that is potentially or actually harmful.

  • Gambling: This could be gambling in betting shops, with friends, through scratch cards and the lottery, or online.

  • Illegal drugs: According to NHS Digital, 19.8% of 16 to 24-year-olds have taken an illegal drug in the past year.

  • Legal drugs: This could include prescription drugs, steroids or other ‘legal highs’ like solvents.

  • Other behaviours: You could be addicted to sex, porn, shopping, work, eating or risk-taking behaviour.

Ultimately, you can be addicted to just about anything, although some substances and behaviours are more likely to cause addictions.

1. What causes addictions?

There are lots of reasons why addictions begin. Some common causes are outlined below:

You experience a ‘high’ which you want to keep experiencing

In the case of drugs, alcohol and nicotine, these substances affect the way you feel, both physically and mentally. These feelings can be enjoyable and create a powerful urge to use the substances again. Gambling may result in a similar mental ‘high’ after a win, followed by a strong urge to try again and recreate that feeling. This can develop into a habit that becomes very hard to stop.

A recreational activity might turn into a habit or compulsion

Being addicted to something means that not having it causes withdrawal symptoms, or a ‘come down’. Because this can be unpleasant, it's easier to carry on having or doing what you crave, and so the cycle continues. Often, an addiction gets out of control because you need more and more to satisfy a craving and achieve the ‘high’.

Environmental and genetic factors

Some studies suggest addiction is genetic, and environmental factors, such as being around other people with addictions, are thought to increase the risk. Specific occupations may carry an increased chance of this happening. Some people may feel peer pressure to involve themselves in behaviours they do not want. Unemployment and poverty can trigger addiction, along with stress and emotional or professional pressure.

2. How addictions can affect you

The strain of managing an addiction can seriously damage your work life, relationships and finances.

In the case of substance misuse (for example, drugs and alcohol), an addiction can have serious psychological and physical effects.

An addiction can be a way of blocking out a difficult issue and it is really common to have an overlap between mental health issues and substance misuse.

3. Getting help for addictions

Addiction is a treatable condition. Whatever the addiction, there are lots of ways you can seek help.

Firstly, it is helpful to find someone to talk to. Identify someone you trust and that you feel able to be honest with. Being able to open up is the first step to seeking the right help. Keeping things bottled up will only make the feelings of guilt and shame worse.

You could see your GP for advice but if you are uncomfortable doing this, you can contact your local drug treatment service. The ‘Talk to Frank’ website will help you to identify a local service near you.

Along with NHS options, there are also charities and private drug and alcohol services that can help and support you.

To speak to someone anonymously about any type of addiction, you can call the Samaritans free of charge.

Your place of work may also provide support via their Employee Assistance Programme. Ask your Human Resources representative for confidential support.

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